Disappearance: Ortega’s Tactic for Silencing Critical Voices

Foto: Alianza Cívica

By La Prensa

HAVANA Times -The Nicaraguan government holds those detained for political reasons up to months incommunicado, essentially making them “missing persons.” National and international human rights advocates have expressed concern over this tactic of the Ortega regime, which seems to have become more prevalent in the last few months.

Braulio Abarca, lawyer, and human rights defender from the Nicaragua Nunca + [“Nicaragua Never more”] Collective, explained that forced disappearance is when a government doesn’t disclose the location of a person they have detained.

The regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo uses this strategy to spread fear and undermine the integrity and dignity of opponents who denounce the crimes committed by their administration.

Such tactics violate “a number of human rights, including the right to life, and to physical, moral and psychological integrity. Forced disappearance also contradicts principles of human dignity, the right not to be subjected to torture, and the right of due process. The family is left in a state of constant anxiety and alert, because they don’t know the whereabouts of the people who were last seen in the hands of the State,” Abarca added.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights recognizes forced disappearance as a continuous violation of human rights. The lawyer indicated that the Ortega regime’s use of this procedure is “a clear message” aimed at people who would like to raise their voices against the Sandinista government. Through such intimidation and other strategies, Ortega and Murillo are trying to make sure people give up any attempt to continue “trying to change the situation.”

Brooklyn Rivera and Nancy Henriquez. The dictatorship’s police forces maintain constant harassment and surveillance against any political or civic opposition figures.  Archived photo/ La Prensa

 “Proof of life” of detained indigenous leaders demanded

Currently, concern has centered on the September detention of indigenous leaders from the Yatama party. Brooklyn Rivera, formerly the Party’s deputy in the Nicaraguan National Assembly, was detained on September 29, when police agents arbitrarily and illegally took him from his home. Days previously, Rivera had celebrated his 71st birthday. Nancy Henriquez, a substitute deputy from the now-outlawed Yatama party was also detained a few days later.

Anexa Cunningham, member of the UN Human Rights Council’s “Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous people,” affirmed: “what’s being demanded is proof of life [of the detained indigenous leaders]. However, the Nicaraguan government hasn’t offered any more information to either the Inter-American system or the family members.”

Cuningham denounced that a month and a half after the deputy was taken, his physical condition is unknown, as well as where the dictatorship is holding him, which defines him as a missing person. “He’s under forced disappearance, because he hasn’t been put before a competent judge to state the reasons for his detention,” the specialist indicated.

In their October report, the Mechanism for the Recognition of Political prisoners maintained that “the detention of an indigenous deputy and leader has been registered in the North Atlantic Caribbean Region (of Nicaragua). Up to the moment, he is in a state of forced disappearance, due to [the government’s] covering up his whereabouts, once he was arrested by the National Police.”

Twenty-seven such registered cases in the United Nations

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has documented 27 cases of forced disappearance in Nicaragua, including 22 men and 5 women.

“This also violates the right to be recognized as a person before the law, the right to life, the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to liberty and personal safety,” they declared in their last report on the current state of human rights in Nicaragua.

The report also noted that the regime’s jail authorities refuse to recognize the detention and have kept under wraps the place where those detained are being held. This results in their de facto loss of protection, putting their lives at risk. “The detained persons were only registered or recognized officially as having been deprived of liberty several days after their detention, which puts them out of reach of the protection of the law for periods that ranged from several hours to three or four weeks,” the UN organization stated.

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